.Mac Subscribers Get More

Christmas came early last week for .Mac subscribers when Apple put on a Santa suit and slipped more storage space into their virtual stockings. The surprise increase was welcome news to many .Mac users, particularly those who had been envying the storage capacities of other online services and felt the increase was overdue. With Yahoo offering 2 GB of storage for $20 a year and a number of other services, like SpyMac and Gmail, giving away up to 1 GB for free, Apple's rate of $99 a year for 100 MB seemed woefully behind the times.

Before the upgrade, a basic .Mac subscription included a 100 MB of iDisk space and 15 MB for e-mail storage. Now, Apple has increased the initial storage space to 250 MB, and subscribers can choose a ratio of how that space is divided between their iDisk and e-mail. Apple has set the default to an even split, allowing 125 MB for each. If you happen to be storing 125 MB of e-mail on a regular basis, leave it set as it is. Otherwise, click on the storage settings button on the account screen to adjust that ratio to one that better reflects your needs.

If a .Mac subscriber finds that 250 MB is still not enough storage space, Apple has also made a change to the pricing structure that may be of some interest to the truly storage hungry. Previously, Apple charged an annual fee of $300 to increase the standard 100 MB of storage to 1 GB. Now, to bump that 250 MB up to 1 GB only costs an additional $49.95 per year. Consequently, subscribers that take advantage of .Mac's online backup and home page creation tools now have an affordable means to further these activities.

Along with the increased storage space, Apple introduced a number of other enhancements to their mail service. First, the per-message 3 MB size limit has increased to 10 MB. In this age of digital photography and large project files, this is welcome news to those sending huge files to family or to work.

Second, a handy new feature that Apple introduced with the upgrade is the ability to create and implement throwaway e-mail aliases. Each .Mac user can create an additional five aliases above and beyond their primary e-mail address. So, now one can save one's primary .Mac address for just those one can trust and create special e-mail addresses for submitting to online retailers, Usenet groups, web pages, or mailing lists where one is at risk of getting spammed. If you start getting too much spam on one of the aliases, delete it and create a new one. The spam will stop and you can start over again with a new e-mail address. Unfortunately, if you do decide to delete an alias, Apple makes you wait seven days before you can create a new one. So, create all five at once in order not to have to wait for a new one.

One of the disadvantages of web mail is that it often lacks the features that users have grown accustom to having in their mail applications. With this upgrade, Apple has moved somewhat closer to bridging that gap by adding a robust spell checker to its web mail. Working like a spell checker in a word processor or mail application, users can check their spelling as they type or have the message checked all at once before sending it. If they use a lot of uncommon vocabulary in their messages, they can add these words to a custom dictionary. The dictionary is available in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese and Swedish. Other improvements made to web mail include a new indicator that shows if messages are being forwarded to another address, the option to customize the name in the from field on your outgoing e-mail, and the ability to forward e-mail from .Mac to another address while still leaving a copy on Apple's mail server. This is handy if a user wants to get e-mail on their phone or PDA but also wants to have a copy on their Mac. Finally, the last web mail improvement allows one to check the storage usage of each individual mail folder.

Even with this upgrade, Apple isn't exactly giving away loads of storage space for nothing. There are a number of other online services out there offering a lot more storage space for a lot less. However, with the numerous other benefits included in a .Mac subscription and the fact that Apple doesn't add advertising copy to your outgoing web mail, a subscription to .Mac is well worth the price of admission. With the increased storage space, it's even more so now.